"This two-SACD set documenting a live performance from February 2009 just might make the best case yet for Schoenberg’s sprawling Gurrelieder..." "...The Philharmonia plays with a total commitment. The orchestral and choral climaxes - especially the Richard Strauss-esque concluding ’sunrise’ are stunning."
Listen Magazine - Summer 2010
"A close contender this, for recording of the fortnight." ****
Classical Music Magazine - 10 October 2009
"Schoenberg’s epic cyle distinguished by fine playing from the Philarmonia."
Gramophone - March 2010
"How fitting that the opening concert of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Philharmonia series ’City of Dreams: Vienna 1900-1935’ should conclude with the mightiest wake-up call in all music ... Part two’s “Wild Hunt” rose from muted Wagner tubas (the eeriest sound in music) to the all bones and chain rattling rampage of the undead (Schoenberg’s surreal take on the summoning of the vassals from Wagner’s Gotterdammerung) to vivid effect while the “Klaus, the Jester” episode - Schoenberg’s scoring at its most fantastical - was despatched with great virtuosity." ****
"’Vienna - City of Dreams’... looks set to be one of the musical highlights of 2009 if Esa-Pekka Salonen’s sensational account of Schoenberg’s seminal Gurrelieder at the Festival Hall last weekend proves typical. ... It was a brilliant, bold and generous masterstroke to open the festivities with Schoenberg’s song-symphonic epic, Gurrelieder ... Salonen charts Schoenberg’s journey from darkness to light, from Romanticism to modernism, with an unerring command of his vast forces ... he achieves an impressionistic transparency in Schoenberg’s lighter-scored pages, suggesting the influence of Debussy."
The Sunday Times
"What better way to launch such an endeavour than with Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder ... Part 1 is really a succession of love songs and Salonen did well not to let the lid off too soon. Holding something in reserve for the Wild Hunt and the glorious Hymn to the Sun of Part 3 - terrific contributions from Simon Halsey’s City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus and Philharmonia Voices - he brought this extravagant manifestation of late Romanticism to a suitably blazing climax."
The Evening Standard
"The opening songs had a featherweight transparency, the interludes a natural fluency, so that when the big moments arrived, they resembled a culmination, an organic development, of all that had gone before. The Philharmonia played as if the music really mattered, with beautifully moulded textures and impeccable attacks."
The Financial Times
"Dramatically realised here by the Philharmonia under Esa-Pekka Salonen, Gurrelieder is a fascinating work which illuminates the development of Schoenberg’s compositional style.
It starts out as a song-cycle and expands to operatic scope, its suitably Wagnerian theme – the dalliances and downfall of the mighty – realised by a gigantic orchestra incorporating six vocal soloists and three choirs of four sections apiece. Written in 1900, the Prelude and First Part are lushly Romantic in manner, but the final section, written 11 years later, is markedly different in style, the doomed hero’s repeated pell-mell ride of death animated by startling instrumental colouration." ****
"This was taped live at London’s Royal Festival Hall last February, at the start of Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia’s massive examination of Viennese modernism. Many considered it epoch-making at the time. That it doesn’t quite work on disc is owing to the recording, which finely balances orchestra and choirs, but places the soloists so close that it emphasises vocal imperfections at the expense of power and beauty. Stig Andersen’s unsteady Waldemar and Monica Groop’s tragic, if raw-sounding, Wood Dove are more detrimentally affected than Soile Isokoski’s ecstatic Tove, so you need to make some allowances in the first section – particularly since Salonen’s approach to the opening love songs is notably restrained. Once we’re past the halfway mark and all hell is literally breaking loose, the performance becomes more gripping, with some electrifying choral singing, and playing as passionate as it is detailed. The narrator, more satisfactorily recorded than the other soloists, is the great German actor Barbara Sukowa, and as a consequence, the climactic Wild Hunt of the Summer Wind is about as heart-rending as it can possibly get." ****
“The opening songs have a featherweight transparency, the interludes a natural fluency … and the choral climax transmits a properly ecstatic, pantheistic glow”
The Financial Times
"This recording comes from Salonen’s recent City of Dreams series with the Philharmonia Orchestra, devoted to the music of decay and stumbling regeneration produced in Vienna in the early 20th century. Gurrelieder is a gigantic post-Wagnerian hybrid relating the illicit love of Waldemar and Tove, Waldemar’s torment after Tove’s death and the apotheosis of their reunion as the spring renews the earthly world. This is a voluptuous, feverish and thrilling performance, characterised also by the clarity of vision and texture that have always been Salonen’s hallmarks." ****
The Sunday Times
"By the time Gurrelieder premiered in 1913, Schoenberg was creating the atonal masterworks that would make him the 20th-century’s most controversial composer. But Gurrelieder, completed in 1911, was his compositional farewell to the opulent 19th-century Romanticism through which he had learnt his craft. Scored for monolithic orchestral and choral forces, the piece portrays the fated love story of Waldemar and Tove. Salonen cracks into Schoenberg’s stacked layers of activity and strikingly schizophrenic mood shifts, revealing clarity and sonic grandeur. His soloists are top-notch too. Essential listening." ****
Classic FM Magazine
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